Literary theory is the study of literature and its significance for culture and historical perspective. Some good research paper topics could be to define literary theory and discuss various aspects of literary criticism.
You could also write your term paper on some new trends in literary theory such as environmental theory and gender queer theory. Here are some ideas to get you started.
What is literary theory?
Literary theory is the study of literature by analyzing its themes and content using interdisciplinary studies such as philosophy, criticism, structure and culture. “Although philosophers, critics, educators and authors have been writing about writing since ancient times, contemporary schools of literary theory have cohered from these discussions and now influence how scholars look at and write about literature,” explained at Purdue Online Writing in Lab in Literary Theory and Schools of Criticism.
Exploring Capitalist Fiction
One area of research for a term paper on literary theory is capitalist fiction. Researching Questia’s library of Literary Theory, you can find Exploring Capitalist Fiction: Business through Literature and Film by Edward W. Younkins. Younkins contends that creative and imaginative works of fiction, in the forms of novels, plays and film, are just as powerful a tool for educating students as textbooks, lectures and case studies. The worth of literature is in its enjoyment, not in its political appropriation by left or right wing authors. The pure enjoyment of art leads to learning, wisdom and knowledge. For example, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller can teach the college student about business and capitalism better than reading a structured textbook.
In a review of “Exploring Capitalist Fiction: Business through Literature and Film” by Allen Mendenhall, published in Independent Review, summer 2014, Mendenhall writes: “Works of literature are commodities that reveal much about what cultures demand and that influence how political arguments become framed; … capitalist and free market theories… are more humane and tenable than many literary theories currently circulating.”
New trends in literary criticism: Environmental and gender/queer
Traditional literary criticism is still practiced in English departments at colleges, but the new trends today include environmental criticism (also called ecocriticism) and gender/queer theory. “Ecocriticism takes an earth-centered approach to literary studies. Ecocritics and theorists ask questions like the following: How is nature represented in this sonnet? What role does the physical setting play in the plot of this novel? Are the values expressed in this play consistent with ecological wisdom? How do our metaphors of the land influence the way we treat it? How can we characterize nature writing as a genre?” writes Cheryll Glotfelty in “What Is Ecocriticism?” posted on Association for the Study of Literature & Environment.
Born from gay/lesbian studies, gender/queer theory investigates the use of gender and/or homosexuality as an ideology and a basis for social structure, culture, politics, economics, education and religious institutions. In literature, how are women portrayed as different from men? In which ways does one gender hold power over the other? How does literature portray heteronormativity (that heterosexuality is the norm)? How are notions of homosexuality revealed or hidden in literature?
Check out Questia’s library on Literary Theory for more information.
In what ways can the study of literary theory educate the reader?